Racecar driver Zach Veach was included among CNN’s “Most Intriguing People of 2010.” ESPN The Magazine picked him as one of its “NEXT” athletes in 2011. He’s met Oprah.
All this, and Veach is still the youngest driver in the Firestone Indy Lights Series.
Even with the precocious resume, though, the 18-year-old Andretti Autosport prodigy considers himself a “late bloomer.” Although many racers begin driving as early as 4, Veach explains, he didn’t get into go-karts until he was 12, in his hometown of Stockdale, Ohio. But before long, Dave Fisher—father to popular Indy 500 driver and owner Sarah Fisher—took Veach under his wing.
The young phenom has made up for lost time since then: He holds a Firestone Indy Lights series track record on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is currently training for the IMS Firestone Freedom 100 on May 24.
Despite the star treatment, Veach says staying humble makes connecting with fans much easier. He considers himself a typical teen. “When I’m hanging out with my friends back at home,” he says, “we usually talk about video games, girls—normal stuff.”
Nevertheless, few would call Veach’s experiences “normal.” The high-school senior teamed up with Oprah Winfrey in 2010 to become one of 33 racecar drivers participating in her “No Phone Zone” campaign. The drivers promised not to text and drive, emphasizing the importance of attentiveness at any speed.
Veach is also the national spokesperson for FocusDriven, a group that advocates cell-phone–free driving. He knows from experience how easily young people can become flustered behind the wheel, especially when rowdy friends are along for the ride. “I sometimes have to tell my friends to keep it down in the car,” he tells IM.
Veach wanted to do more than just talk about distracted driving, however. So he created an Android app that helps prevent texting while driving; it automatically sends a reply to anyone sends an incoming text, alerting them that driver is unavailable.
Still, for Veach the primary focus remains auto racing. Unlike other seniors worried primarily about college-acceptance letters and dorm-room decor, this student is dreaming bigger: He hopes one day to join the top-level IZOD IndyCar series and, of course, race in the Indianapolis 500.
Photo courtesy BRANDed Management